Active Choices is our programme to help aid the recovery of substance and alcohol misuses, which is in its sixth year and has assisted over 750 participants. Comic Relief has funded a large proportion of the project and with Red Nose Day coming up on the 15th March, we’d like to showcase the positive effect the programme has on our participants.

Some of our participants have taken huge strides to change their lives around, no more so than Jimmy and Ann-Marie who want to share their story in order to inspire more people to take steps to recover from addiction.

Jimmy and Ann-Marie joined the Active Choices programme five years ago when they were both on methadone to treat heroin addiction. Ann-Marie in particular was frightened to withdraw from using it as she had spent her entire adult life, from age 14, addicted to several substances, including cannabis, cocaine and speed, and also had turned to self-harming.

Being on the programme was difficult for them at first, Jimmy was adamant that he did not want to engage, make friends or talk to other people going through the same problems. However, after coming off methadone and staying clean, Jimmy was determined to change his life around and inspire Ann-Marie to change hers too for their children’s wellbeing.

Staying away from drugs and alcohol led Jimmy to putting on three stone, which made him unhappy with his appearance and he started to show a real commitment to the gym programme which is made available to our Active Choices participants. Within this time he also began to interact with other clients, making some firm friends in the process who were able to tackle their recovery journeys together.

Seeing Jimmy prosper in this environment made Ann-Marie show a real commitment to the programme too, and three years later they have both been clean for the entire time they have been with us, and both volunteer for the programme to help others through their recovery journeys.

“I can honestly say I would never use drugs or drink again. Volunteering keeps me going”, said Ann-Marie, who helps out at several Derby City sessions.

The programme has not only allowed them to improve their own lives, but also the lives of their children. Kyron (14), Ryon (10) and Kallum (5), have been able to go on their first ever holiday this year with the support of Derby County Community Trust. They went to Skegness for four days in August and were accompanied by Lee Fearnley, one of the Active Choices officers at the Trust. The two eldest children are autistic, so this added support made the holiday possible, and the family had a fantastic time.

“This is the first time in my adult life I’ve ever had stability”, Ann-Marie said. “I’ve come today and set up the session with Lee, Jimmy is helping him in Swadlincote later, sometimes people who are going through difficulties with recovery, it helps them to see people who have been in their position and come out the other side.”

Last year, Jimmy won Volunteer Champion of the Year at the Derby County Community Trust Awards Evening 2018.

To find out more about Active Choices, please get in touch with [email protected].

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